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Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen

  • Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak
    With an object list by Isotta Poggi

    An inquiry into emergent media's rich lineage, Devices of Wonder explores the artful machines humans have used to augment visual perception.

    The encyclopedic cabinet of curiosities serves as a model for this study of the archaic instruments lurking in state-of-the art technology. Featured in Devices of Wonder are android automata, lunar landscapes, perspective theaters, vues d'optique, microscopes, magnetic games, magic lanterns, camera obscuras, boxes by Joseph Cornell, Lucas Samaras's Mirrored Room, Suzanne Anker's Zoosemiotics, Mark Tilden's UniBug 3.1, panoramic works by Jeff Wall and Giovanni Lusieri, paintings by Jean-Baptiste Chardin and Joseph Wright of Derby, projections by Diana Thater and James Turrell, and a pop-up book by Kara Walker.

    Barbara Stafford's introduction weaves these fascinating artifacts into a provocative narrative analyzing the complex links between old and new media. Her wide-ranging investigation is complemented by thirty-one short essays in which Frances Terpak tracks the often surprising connections among individual items. Like the cabinet of curiosities, Devices of Wonder functions as an analogical instrument, reframing the beautiful eye machines that continue to mediate our encounters with the world. The book was published in conjunction with an exhibition held at the J. Paul Getty Museum during the winter of 2001 to 2002.

    Barbara Maria Stafford is William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. Frances Terpak is curator of photographs at the Getty Research Institute. Isotta Poggi is research associate at the Getty Research Institute.

    "A packed wunderkammer of a catalogue, enclosing every kind of ingenious picturing instrument, from magic lanterns to dioramas to anamorphic perspective boxes to flicker books."
    —The Independent (London)

    "[An] encyclopedic survey of post-Renaissance curios."
    —Publishers Weekly

    "Compelling . . . admirably condenses centuries of experimentation into a short essay."
    —Library Journal

    "[This] amply illustrated, 400-page catalog probes deeply into social, technological and philosophical influences on the act of seeing."
    —Los Angeles Times

    "The book itself becomes a device of wonder, a wonderkamer that temporarily halts rush of space and time in a flurry of fascinating and perlexing images and compelling argument."

    "Anyone who is fascinated by visual images and by how they may be manipulated to extraordinary effect will thoroughly enjoy this book."
    —New Scientist

    416 pages
    7 x 10 inches
    77 color and 68 b/w illustrations
    ISBN 978-0-89236-590-6

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: Getty Research Institute